Scientists can now transform sunlight into liquid fuel
- 06 November 2018
Could solar-powered thermal fuel be the future for powering our homes, devices and vehicles? Scientists have been looking for a way to do just that, and now a team of researchers at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden are reportedly making significant progress.
Just last year they developed a chemical fluid that bottles the sunlights energy and stores it up for up to 18 months.
This liquid fuel contains the organic compound norbornadiene, known for its interest as a metal-binding ligand. When exposed to sunlight it rearranges its carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen atoms into an energy-storing isomer, quadricyclane, which is a strained, multi-cycle hydrocarbon that along with solar energy conversion also has potential uses as an additive for rocket propellants.
It’s estimated that Quadricyclane holds up to 250 watt-hours of energy per kilogram, even after it cools down and is stored. To use it, the quadricyclane is passed through a cobalt-based catalyst to the point where it’s released as heat. The energy released is done so without spewing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The MOST System
The researchers are in the midst of the testing phase, adjusting the molecular structure of their fuel so that it doesn’t break down as a result of fuel storage and release cycles. So far, they’ve discovered that it can be used over and over again. “We’ve run it through 125 cycles without any significant degradation” according to Professor Kasper Moth-Poulsen, who is leading the research team.
The round-trip energy prototype currently being trialled is called MOST, which stands for Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage. Essentially, a pump cycles the fluid through transparent tubes, ultraviolet light emanating from the sun hypes the molecules into an energised state to jolt the transformation process.
A crucial next step will be to develop a single super fuel that combines all the best characteristics of the many fuel variants the research team has developed. There’s still some further testing and research to go into make this a commercial product for potential use in the automotive and heavy vehicle or equipment industries, but the team is on the right track for making solar energy transportable and usable for real-world energy applications.
Keeping everything from vehicles, buildings and heavy-duty outdoor equipment running is top priority at Bulk Fuel Australia, and we’re looking forward to working with new technologies in the future. To find out what Bulk Fuel Australia can do for your business, contact us today.